Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Update: Over the River snagged

Posted By on Wed, Aug 29, 2012 at 3:29 PM

OTR spokesman Miles Graham clarified OTR's stance in the lawsuit via e-mail. He writes:

Over The River holds the permit being challenged and has a fundamental interest in the outcome of this legal action. Christo intervened to ensure that the project’s interests are adequately represented. This intervention does not mean that Over The River is providing financial or any other assistance to BLM. It is not. Rather, Christo’s participation is to defend the unique interests of Over The River, such as protecting his and Jeanne-Claude’s artistic vision for this temporary work of art.


Today, Over the River Corp. announced that it would side with the BLM in its suit from ROAR. The opposition group feels the BLM's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was inadequate and that it also "violates the Federal Land Policy and Management Act," says its press release.

Christo and Co. clearly feel otherwise, and need an Over the River-friendly ruling to continue the project. The release goes on to say, "The outcome of this lawsuit is critical to Christo moving forward with this temporary work of art. Because the interests of this project are directly affected by this lawsuit, Christo decided it was in the best interests of Over The River to intervene and join BLM in its defense of the EIS and of its decision to grant the permit last fall."


Three lawsuits filed against state agencies, not Over the River Corp., have put a major roadblock in Christo's plans for the Over the River project.

Two of the suits were filed by Over the River's main opposition group, ROAR, which is challenging Colorado State Parks and the Bureau of Land Management, two agencies that gave their stamp of approval for the project. (ROAR got help from Denver University's law clinic.) The third suit is an administrative appeal through the federal Interior Board of Land Appeals by three individuals in response the BLM's Record of Decision allowing the project.

No water under the bridge for Over the River

According to a Denver Post article, U.S. District Court Judge John L. Kane ordered construction, ostensibly, to stop until the federal appeal is resolved. Judge Kane also denied the BLM's motion to dismiss ROAR's suit in early July.

While the Post adds that Over the River is "indefinitely suspended," OTR spokesperson Miles Graham calls it a "temporary postponement" and tells the Indy that not all OTR work has ceased. The team is using this time to work on other aspects, including the Event Management Plan and the bighorn sheep treatment program.

Graham says the litigation comes at "pivotal moment" for the project, which was making ready to clear the permitting process and begin ordering materials for the first leg of construction, slated to begin in a few months.

"It forced us to make the tough choice on whether to proceed, and while Christo’s very, very confident these legal challenges won’t succeed, it would just be unwise to start ordering materials and begin installing the project before the lawsuits are successfully resolved," Graham says, adding, “We think it’s fairly unlikely that they’ll be resolved within the next few months, so Christo’s just working with the stuff he can control right now."

Ultimately, the team remains optimistic, citing the lengthy battles it fought to make Running Fence and Surrounded Islands happen.

“While this is disappointing, it’s certainly not unusual for these kind of hurdles before the realization of these types of works," Graham says. "So Christo remains upbeat and confident that we can clear these hurdles and move forward with the project.”

Graham says the team has no idea how long the litigation period will last, but they expect it will be "long and slow."

Read OTR's press release after the jump.

Christo informs supporters today of temporary delay of Over The River exhibition
Recent news may have reminded you that legal challenges have been filed against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for its November, 2011 Record of Decision and against Colorado State Parks for its 2011 Agreement with OTR. Both agencies approved Christo and Jeanne-Claude's vision for Over The River and authorized the project to move forward. However, a federal court order a few weeks ago to delay the lawsuit against BLM is further indication it will be some time before these challenges are resolved.

This is a pivotal moment for Over The River. Many years of successfully securing permits are drawing to a close and Christo is preparing for installation. The transition to the next phase requires significant investment in materials and equipment to begin installation work in the canyon. Under the current schedule, anchor installation activities would be slated to get underway in just a few months.

Christo met today in Cañon City with a group of local supporters to inform them that he must work through this legal process. While Christo remains confident that the legal challenges will not succeed, it would be unwise to order materials and begin installing the project before the lawsuits are successfully resolved.

Christo remains committed to realizing Over The River, despite this situation which is not unusual for his temporary works of art. He and Jeanne-Claude have faced similar challenges before the realization of previous works. It is unclear how the pending litigation will affect the project schedule, but Christo will continue to work on several aspects of Over The River as the legal process proceeds, including the bighorn sheep treatment program and the completion of the installation Event Management Plan.

As Christo said today in Cañon City, "I am fully committed to Over The River just as Jeanne-Claude and I have always envisioned it and I look forward to having these legal hurdles behind us so we can realize this temporary work of art in Colorado's Arkansas River Valley."

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